FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It was a crime that rocked the small Saginaw community last summer. A 6-year-old’s body was found thrown away with the trash.
Now, 15 months after Alanna Gallagher’s death, a Saginaw teenager has pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting and suffocating the young girl.
Tyler Holder, 18, has also entered a guilty plea for arson and attempted capital murder for shooting an Arlington police detective on the day of his arrest.
In exchange for the plea deal, Holder has been sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. Holder must serve at least 50 years before he will be eligible to get out of prison, according to a statement released by the Tarrant County Prosecutor’s Office.
It was on July 1, 2013, when neighborhood kids discovered Alanna’s body wrapped in a tarp, her head covered with grocery bags and her wrists and ankles bound with duct tape.
Days passed with no arrests or suspects named by police. Then several weeks after Alanna’s murder, her family’s car and a part of their home were torched overnight.
A few days later, after DNA linked Holder to the murder, investigators went to arrest him and search his home, when he opened fire. Holder shot himself and Arlington police Detective Charles Lodatto. Lodatto has recovered and is back to work.
Prosecutors initially charged Holder with capital murder, but because he was 17 at the time he committed the crimes, prosecutors decided to pursue a murder charge instead.
According to Texas law, defendants who are convicted of capital murder are automatically sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole. However, a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling declared mandatory life sentences unconstitutional for defendants under age 18.
Deputy Chief District Attorney Bob Gill said in a statement that family of Alanna Gallagher and Officer Charles Lodatto are satisfied with the resolution of the case.
Alanna’s mother wrote a victim impact statement that was read in court after Holder was sentenced. It reads in part, “We have all suffered tremendously without our little Sunshine. Never again will I open the door and walk into my home to hear her voice chiming out “MAMA!” as she runs towards me.”
The statement continues, “Our house is emptier, and quieter and sadder. We carry around the heavy hard stone of pain where our hearts used to be. And it’s your fault.”
Mark G. Daniel and Tim Moore, defense attorneys for Holder, released a statement saying, “This case has been a tragedy for everyone involved. This resolution is in the best interest of all concerned.”
People who live in the Saginaw neighborhood where the murder occurred say life has changed, and the streets are much quieter now.
“You don’t see children out and playing or walking without a parent out here,” said Deborah Diviney, whose granddaughters played with Alanna.
Purple ribbons, which was Alanna’s favorite color, still hang in her memory from trees, mailboxes and fences in the neighborhood.
“It’s been horrific. The girls still talk about her. They still look at the ribbons. They actually talk about her once or twice a week, saying that’s their angel that protects them and how they still talk to their friend Alanna,” said Diviney.
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